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Dickinson airport hears complaints over Dec. cancellations

A combination of bad weather and bad luck meant the cancellation of more than a dozen flights to and from Dickinson last week, which has prompted complaints for Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport.

At a Dickinson Airport Authority Commission meeting Tuesday, airport manager Matthew Remynse said the airport has fielded a number of complaints in recent days after 18 flights were canceled on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4 due to wintery conditions and the malfunctioning of a de-icing truck and two possible backup trucks.

“We’ve had several complaints to the airport and the airport authority due to the de-icer truck being down,” Remynse told the commission. “Basically, United and Delta were not risking their aircraft coming in to Dickinson because the de-icer was down. They weren’t bringing aircraft in or out.”

Remynse said he sent a letter expressing the airport’s displeasure with the situation to GAT Airline Ground Support, which does contract work at TRRA and operates the de-icing truck used at the facility for United and Delta planes.

Short of purchasing an airport-owned de-icing truck — which he said could cost tens of thousands of dollars to buy and maintain — Remynse said the airport’s hands were essentially tied when the truck, which was up and running again the evening of Dec. 4, malfunctioned.

“It’s GAT’s responsibility to inform the airlines if the de-icing truck isn’t working,” Remynse said. “The minute they notified the airlines, we weren’t going to get flights in or out with no truck. GAT doesn’t answer to us, they answer to the airlines and I’m sure the airlines were livid because they had to cancel several flights coming right after Thanksgiving.”

Commissioner Robert Zent said he believed it was important for the airport’s customers to know that some occurrences are out of its control.

“We need to be able to communicate to our patrons that some of these things are not in our control,” Zent said. “People coming here and using our airport need to know when it’s us and when it isn’t. We can’t give up on educating people.”

Remynse said an unrelated issue with the airport’s runway lights caused a disruption to the airport’s flight schedule on Friday.

“It’s difficult to see,” Remynse said. “The Denver service with United and the Minneapolis service with Delta has been going so well. To have these delays and cancellations — it’s just unfortunate because the service has been great. There have been more cancellations this month than there had been since we started this service in June.”

Remynse said the issue with GAT’s truck was with its heating system, which warms a special de-icing fluid. Remynse said it could have possibly been feasible for one of the two de-icing trucks maintained by Great Lakes Aviation at the airport to be used for the Delta and United planes last week, but both of those trucks also malfunctioned in the frigid winter weather.

In other news from the meeting, Remynse noted that 1,787 passengers passed through the airport on Delta flights in November. Remynse said United had not supplied TRRA with its November numbers at the time of the meeting.


Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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